BERLIN (Reuters) – A top German politician and close ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Saturday Islam was one of the main factors in religiously motivated violence, and urged Germany’s Muslims to reject all forms of brutality.
Ronald Pofalla, general-secretary of Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), also said many Muslims would find it painful that their religion was being abused for violent ends.
“Certainly it is painful for many Muslims that their religion is misused for violence,” Pofalla wrote in a guest column for Sunday’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper.
“But … the problem of religiously motivated violence is today almost exclusively a problem of Islam. In addition, many of the victims are Muslims themselves,” he said, according to extracts released in advance on Saturday.
The decision triggered condemnation from politicians and artists, who warned Germans not to bow to fears of terrorism.
The Central Council of Muslims in Germany criticised Pofalla’s comments, saying generalisations such as he made only reinforced stereotypes and prejudices.
“I get the impression that some CDU people want to take one step forward and two steps back,” Aiman Mazyek, the Council’s general-secretary, told Sunday’s Tagesspiegel newspaper.
Germany has about 3.2 million Muslims, including some 1.8 million Turks who have lived harmoniously alongside Germans for some 50 years.
But the row highlighted growing fears about Muslim radicalism. Earlier in September, German-born Pope Benedict enraged many Muslims by quoting from a mediaeval text linking the spread of Islam to violence.
The production, which contained a scene showing the severed heads of the Prophet Mohammad, Jesus and Buddha, overshadowed a summit last Wednesday to boost dialogue between the government and German Muslims. The cancellation instead raised tensions.
Pofalla urged Muslim groups to reject all forms of violence.
“Muslims must be prepared to accept criticism. For our part, we must be prepared to stand up for our Christian, Western values,” he said.